Early Dutch goals prolong hosts’ nightmare, claim third place at 2014 World Cup

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A tournament that started with expectations of a sixth World Cup has ended in embarrassment for Brazil, whose defensive failings early in today’s third place match produced the team’s second straight loss. With a late goal from Georginio Wijnaldum build on early scores from Robin van Persie and Daley Blind, the Netherlands claimed a 3-0 win in today’s playoff, leaving the host nation on the wrong end of lopsided defeats to close its tournament.

Brazil came into today’s match in Brasília having suffered its most-lopsided defeat in tournament history, a 7-1, semifinal loss to Germany on Tuesday. Given an opportunity to save some face in the nation’s capital, the Seleçao conceded twice in the first 16 minutes, paving the way to a disappointing fourth place finish.

The Netherlands were on the board in the third minute when van Persie converted a penalty conceded by Thiago Silva. Just past the quarter-hour mark, a failed clearance from David Luiz left Daley Blind with an open shot from 12 yards out, with the defender’s finish high into Júlio César’s goal giving the Dutch early, unneeded insurance.

One minute into stoppage time, a cross from the right by Daryl Janmaat found Wijnaldum just outside the six-yard box, setting up the midfielder for a one-timed finish inside César’s left post.

With the victory, the Netherlands finish its World Cup undefeated, having done 5-0-2 (W-L-D) over the course of seven games. Brazil, on the other hand, went 3-2-2, losing the final two games of its competition.

The Netherlands opened the scoring almost immediately, with van Persie, at the edge of Brazil’s defensive third, releasing Robben behind the defense through the right channel. Silva, attempting to cover from his right-center back position, was late getting to the Dutch attacker and intentionally pulled him down from behind, just outside the penalty box. Committing a pair of apparent mistakes, referee Djamel Haïmoudi pointed to the penalty spot while only producing a yellow card for Silva. Van Persie’s ensuing conversion had the Netherlands up in the third minute.

source: AP
Daley Blind, center, celebrates with Bruno Martins Indi, right, after scoring his side’s second goal. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Thirteen minutes later, the Dutch doubled its lead, with Blind given too much time from near the penalty spot to beat César high and into the right of goal. Despite replays showing the Netherlands may have been offside in the buildup to the goal, Blind took advantage of a weak clearance from Luiz, whose header of a cross from the right found Blind open in front of goal.

On the brink of a second calamity, Brazil recovered, proving the more dangerous team over the half’s final half-hour, but only able to register one, long-range shot on Jasper Cillessen, the host nation went into intermission own two goals.

As play resumed in the second half, so did Brazil’s control, but shots on Cillessen were still hard to come by. Near the 70-minute mark, as Brazil started to push 60 percent possession for the match, the hosts had only managed two shots on target, with the Dutch’s five-man defense able to stop the Seleçao’s attacks as they reached the edge of the penalty area.

Brazil finally appeared to have generated a chance in the 70th minute when Oscar was taken down in the right of the area by Blind, who was stretchered off the field moments later with an apparent left knee injury. Haïmoudi, however, produced a yellow card on Oscar for dividing, leaving Brazil without a chance from the spot.

Over final, merciful 20 minutes, Brazil continued pushing toward the Dutch goal, maintaining hopes the Selecao could get on the scoresheet, if not salvage a result. Those hopes, however, couldn’t generates chances for the home side, who proved no more successful in the match’s last moments than they had since conceding the first two goals. Once Oscar saw yellow, the remainder of the match become it denouement, with Wijnaldum’s 91st minute finish completing the Dutch’s 3-0 romp.

With the final whistle, Brazil’s chance at redemption had gone, and if anything, the performance in Brasília only validated what had happened against the Germans. Whereas four weeks ago Brazil were picked to redeem 1950, the last five days have added another nightmare.

For the Dutch, however, the win caps once of the tournament’s surprise performances. Picked by many to exit the competition at the group stage, Louis van Gaal’s team claimed five wins in seven games, derailing Spain, Chile, Mexico, and Brazil along the way.

Though van Gaal will now moves back into the club world, he leaves his national team with new momentum. When Guus Hiddink takes over, he’ll inherit a squad of young but experienced players – players who’ll be able to leverage their surprise success at Euro 2016.

LINEUPS

Brazil: César; Maicon, Silva, Luiz, Maxwell; Gustavo (Fernandinho 46′), Paulinho (Hernanes 57′); Ramires (Hulk 73′), Oscar, Willian; Jô

Goals: None

Netherlands: Cillessen (Vorm 92′); Kuyt; de Vrij, Vlaar, Martins Indi, Blind (Janmaat 70′); Clasie (Veltman 90′), Wijnaldum, de Guzman; Robben, van Persie

Goals: van Persie 3′, Blind 16′, Wijnaldum 91′

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.